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Choosing a robotic vacuum by Aurobo

Samsung RA-52V CleanMate QQ2L
No-name M788 Neato XV-11

Our company is selling vacuum cleaning robots in Australia since 2008. Apparently, we have some significant experience on quality and reliability. In particular, we tested such robots as: different iRobot Roomba models (4100, DirtDog, 532, 560, 570, 580, 610), Neato XV-11, Samsung Hauzen VC-RL52V, CleanMate (365, QQ1, QQ2, QQ2L, QQ2+), and Chinese no-name robots M-288, M-788. I would like to stress out, that we are not affiliated with any particular manufacturer, and thus, we are carefully choosing our products taking into account their quality and price, at first.

Nowadays, there are a few manufacturers on the market that offer many models. Consequently, our customers face the problem of choice: what model is the best. In this article I am trying to uncover possible answers to the question, based on our real experience. Again, we are not advertising here any particular model or brand, as far as we have an equal opportunity to sell any of them.

Why do you buy a vacuum cleaner? Actually, it seems that this question too often is far from being rhetorical. Do you need any gadget that crawls across your home? Do you need something that is fancy or silent? I shall emphasize that the most important thing to do before you buy a robot is to make sure that the answer is: "I need a robot to clean my house". That will help you a lot in the formidable task of comparing robot parameters. For example, some sellers claim that their robot is the most silent. Let us look into the claim a bit deeply. The noisiest part of the robot is, apparently, the vacuum system that sucks debris. If the robot is silent, then it has weak vacuum. Now, let me remind you about the major question again "why are you buying a vacuum cleaner?" Got the idea?

Besides the price, there are three main categories that must be considered when you are buying a vacuum cleaning robot:
  • efficiency of the vacuum system and brushes
  • efficiency of the navigation
  • reliability of the robot.
Efficiency of a vacuum system is generally related to the vacuum power; and, of course, the more noise it generates, the better it sucks. Today, the strongest vacuum has the Neato XV-11. Runners-up are the Roomba (all 5xx and 6xx models have the same power) and the CleanMate. Surprisingly, Samsung robots have really weak vacuum, just a bit better then the wooden spoon owner, M-788. Another important part of a robot is the main brush system. I believe that the Roomba and Neato manufacturers have taken two different directions: the Roomba brush system seems to be more efficient on picking up pet hair from hard floor, while the Neato beater brush is especially good on carpets. Other manufacturers have equipped their robots with simple brushes that are still doing the job well.

Navigational system basically falls into two categories: random walk and mapping. The random walk means that a robot changes it direction independently of the room or its previous position. In opposite, the mapping technology lets the robot "remember" where it has already cleaned and, thus, the robot tries to cover every single spot on the floor. The advantage of random walk is in simplicity of realisation that affects the price. Although, in theory, mapping tend to be more efficient way, the current implementations are not always perfect. For example, Samsung robots often gets stuck because of incorrect mapping, and also they "forget" the current position if you pick the robot up from the floor. On the other hand, iRobot endowed all Roomba models with wall following sensor that significantly improves performance on edges. The professional model Roomba 610 additionally utilising lighthouse technology that controls how long the robot cleans a particular room. The Neato XV-11 has the most sophisticated navigation at the moment. It fairly good in finding its way back to the dock and is resistant to small intervention in its job such as picking up and shifting.

Despite the simplicity of the random walk concept, the realisations seem to be very different. For example, the M-788 could be easily trapped in a narrow hallway at in between chairs, and spend all the battery time at few square meters leaving the rest uncleaned. In opposite, the Roomba is able to cover evenly even complex house shapes.

Reliability of the robot is an important feature. iRobot Roomba has probably the longest history of manufacturing such the devices and, what is the most important, they are constantly improving products. For example, the robots that were manufactured about three years ago have a problem with penetrating of debris into the brush motor. The company has fixed the issue, and now the motor has new housing to prevent the problem. Similarly, Neato Robotics has quickly fixed the well-known RPS error problem that caused massive negative feedback. However, not every manufacturer wishes to improve its products.

While some companies such as Neato Robotics and iRobot corp. are spending fortune for research and development, other manufacturers prefer just make a copy. For example, M-288 is a clumsy copy of the old Roomba Discovery. Moreover, the M-288 as well as M-788 seem to infringe at least two iRobot patents in Australia: 2004316156 and 2004316426. Interestingly, the Chinese manufacturer failed to implement some other important patents (for ex., 2006304838) that significantly comprised performance of M-788 in such functions as wall following and obstacle avoidance. It is worth saying that there are few companies that sell M-288 and M-788 at their own trademarks. You can easily recognise these robots by their appearance, just use Google.

We are not experienced with every vacuum cleaning robot on the market and the article has not covered many robots, having both good and bad performance. However, I hope this review has given you an idea of what exactly should you take into account when you buying a robot. Some features are really important, while others are not. For example, do you really care of what kind of the battery is used, Li-Ion or NiCd, given that two robots have similar performance and lifespan? On the other hand, you might care if a seller infringes someone's intellectual property. Also, try not to be caught with the imitation of performance. For example, spinning side brush is mainly intended to clean edges. Thus, two spinning side brushes make no difference with single one, because it is nearly impossible to have two edges at the sides of the robot at the same time. Thank you for reading the article and good luck with your shopping!

This article was published on Friday 13 January, 2012.
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